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Favorite Christmas Episodes

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Gary OS, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    First, three Jack Benny Show Christmas episodes that are on DVD.

    1956
    -A live program that features Mrs. Edgar Bergen as the primary guest and the conceit is Jack visits her home and is shocked to see that Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd are real. This script would be redone later for a filmed episode that aired in the MCA rerun package. The only Christmas trappings are a novelty song done by Jack's quartet and the tree setting at the Bergen house.

    1960
    -The "Christmas shopping" episode where Jack drives clerk Mel Blanc to insanity by constantly changing the card in his gift to Don and forcing him to unwrap it over and over. This was a variation of an annual gag that went back to radio in the late 40s though it started initially with Jack unable to decide between plastic tip or metal tip shoelaces as a gift. Audiences loved it so much they would enjoy it again each year. When Mel goes to pieces you can see Jack breaking up as he would always do in Mel's presence so yeah, while it is a bit of dark comedy the underlying cast camaraderie softens that and never made it seem vicious.

    1961
    -From Shout's selection of "lost" episodes. This is another live/tape episode that had never been seen again. We see Jack go into the audience and have a funny exchange with Frank "YESSSSS!" Nelson and then on-stage he welcomes a wheelchair bound Mel Blanc, making his first appearance since his near fatal crash 11 months earlier.

    Followed that up with my archival copy of the Bob Hope special from December 15, 1965 which was Bob's first ever color special. Jack is a guest on that in a sketch of an escaped criminal barging in on Santa's workshop. Bing does a sketch with Bob about Bob spending a week in his Palm Springs house. We also get a fairly weak sketch of Bob and Janet Leigh about husband and wife movie stars running for the Senate (topical reference to the election of George Murphy to the Senate the previous year and Ronald Reagan's already announced candidacy for Governor). Music from Nancy Wilson and Bing then returns to perform "Do You Hear What I Hear?" with solemnity.

    The program closes with Bob previewing the next "Chrysler Theater" broadcast which is a color film show "The Admiral" with Robert Young and Robert Reed and offers a reminder of just how much filmed drama of that has been MIA for decades.

    I then decided it was time to catch the Dick Van Dyke Show Christmas episode from Season 3, "The Alan Brady Show Presents" since seeing it after watching a variety special of this era makes one better appreciate how they did capture spot-on the essence of what an early to mid 60s variety show would be like and it was a nice if not spectacular way of doing a production number episode organically out of the show's premise. (I also get a personal satisfaction seeing this episode for another reason that shall remain nameless).
     
  2. Message #762 of 884 Dec 14, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2019
    MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Well, yesterday I inaugurated my new 4K set up with the UHD disc of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The timeless special looks more colorful and sharper than ever. It even sounds better too, almost too good since you can see things like cel flares and film grain that were concealed by the lower resolution of prior formats and of the film chains used by broadcasters in the 1960s and 1970s. At least they didn’t scrub the life out of it; that would’ve undoubtedly looked worse. One caveat: they actually altered the credits to put three primary voice actors in where they hadn’t been before. This has never been on any version I have seen, and it is in a font that does not match the original. Considering all the changes made since the original 1965 broadcast, that makes it an alteration of an alteration. Mr. Lucas, pick up the white courtesy phone please.

    Included with the disc were two subsequent specials also remastered in 4K: It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown from 1984, and It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown from 1992. The former is not exactly what I would call timeless, and it isn’t even a holiday special of any kind. If anything, it feels like a musical episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show with nods to post-disco popular music of the era. Stacy Ferguson is the voice of Sally in this one; who knew 35 years ago that she would grow up to be Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas! She was the only one who didn’t use a vocal double to sing. Disney would go on to use this practice in several of their animated musicals of the 1990s. Meanwhile, Marine Jahan, Jennifer Beals’ dance double from Flashdance, essentially making her the Marni Nixon of dancing, was used as the rotoscope model for Snoopy’s dancing here. The title song was sung by Joey Scarbury and Desiree Goyette. Scarbury is best known for singing the theme song to The Greatest American Hero. Goyette also contributed her voice to several Garfield animated cartoons.

    The latter special feels more like an attempt to go back and redo the past with characters who had been introduced to the strip and cartoons after 1965. Even the actual title as seen on screen copies the stylized see in Christmas of the original. Here, much of the focuses on another Christmas pageant, this time with Sally in the cast feeling anxious about having to remember her only line. An interview with Schulz in 1995 revealed he admitted he like this better than the original special because that had some mistakes in it that he was ashamed of showing to the public.

    It is unusual that they would include a non-Christmas special rather than the 2003 post-Schulz hour-long entry I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown that focused on Linus and Lucy’s little brother Rerun. The specials have 4 x 3 or 16 x 9 options, so naturally I chose the 4 x 3 one since that is the original aspect ratio for all of them.
     
  3. Ron1973

    Ron1973 Beverly Hillbilles nut extraordinaire

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    I have the Jack Benny from 1960 on my flash drive also. Poor Mel Blanc! I know he's more familiar to people for Looney Tunes, but what an actor as well. I worked in retail for years, and though I never had a customer as bad as Jack was playing, I feel sorry for Mel, even though I know it's all an act. A few years after that Mel guest starred on an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies as a cab driver who Granny ran just as ragged as what Jack did to his salesman character.
     
  4. Ron1973

    Ron1973 Beverly Hillbilles nut extraordinaire

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    I viewed several O&H episodes this morning that I have on the trusty flash drive hooked in my blu-ray player. My mother was sitting and laughing at them, too. She just had a cataract removed Monday, so it gives me a good feeling to see her getting a laugh watching them knowing she can actually see the picture good. I fell asleep watching "The Week Before Christmas" of The Beverly Hillbillies and woke up to O&H.

    I took a break from music and watched S5's episode, "The Christmas Present" tonight. It's possibly my favorite Christmas episode of the series entire. Mrs. Drysdale is still desperate to get rid of the Clampetts, at least for the holidays, and begs Milburn to send them on vacation to a nice tropical retreat such as Devil's Island! :rolleyes: She's donating old clothes for a rummage sale to help underprivileged people in Bel-Air, some of whom don't even make $25K a year! Mr. Drysdale complains because she insists he should donate his seersucker suit he bought in 1948. Always the frugal sort, he explains to her there's nothing wrong with it. He had it modernized by having the lapels removed, and Mrs. Drysdale recalls what he did with the lapels-he had them turned into socks! I used to laugh at the notion of someone keeping clothes that long. I laughed at my dad for keeping 20 year old ties. It dawned me a few months ago that some of my own ties are approaching 20 years old, if not a little older. :P

    Back on topic, Mr. Drysdale hires Jethro to take all of the donation stuff for him in the truck. He's under the assumption Mrs. Drysdale is selling them for herself to buy Christmas. This after Granny mean-mouthed her for being cheap. They all get jobs at a department store with Jethro playing Santa Claus, Ellie an elf, Jed in sporting goods, and Granny selling "flimsies" in women's underwear. Mrs. Drysdale comes into shop and Granny promptly stuffs a few negligees in her purse without her noticing leading her to a trip to the county jail for shoplifting. In the end Jethro gets stuck trying to get down the chimney at the mansion. All of the characters break the 4th wall, turn to face the camera, and sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
     
  5. Message #765 of 884 Dec 15, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
    Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Screenwriter

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    Good to hear that your mom is recovering well from her cataract surgery, Ron! A steady diet of Ozzie and Harriet and The Beverly Hillbillies should set her right in no time. That S5 Hillbillies Christmas episode sounds like a hoot...have to order the S5 DVD set sometime next year. I have the first four seasons here, and plan on watching "Christmas at the Clampetts" from S2 sometime this coming week.
     
  6. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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  7. Ron1973

    Ron1973 Beverly Hillbilles nut extraordinaire

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    While I enjoy all of the seasons, S5 and S6 were the last of the extremely good episodes. S7 had too many story arcs and Milburn Drysdale started getting "out there" with his money obsession.
     
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  8. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    I watched an obscure movie from 2014 called "The Christmas Candle" based on a novel by Christian author Max Lucado. It requires having a certain mindset to fully appreciate but I found it inspiring and true to the themes of the season.
     
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  9. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    And now it's time for Christmas specials!

    First looked at the 1972 Christmas episode of Julie Andrews's one season ABC variety series. Anything Christmas and Julie is always pure magic and this one doesn't disappoint with Jimmy Stewart as the primary guest. Rich Little is a regular and the scene of him and Stewart interacting confirms that Stewart was Little's best letter-perfect vocal impression (other great Little impressions like Jack Benny, which he does in two "Scrooge" sketches are perfect in mannerisms but don't do the voice 100% perfect).

    Then to 1984, which was the first year I taped Christmas specials which make these my oldest personal TV on VHS recordings (I used a friend's VCR; we didn't get ours until March 1985. I was conscientiously thinking of Christmas specials as something to tape as the equivalent of gaining a new Christmas record for re-use).

    Perry Como Christmas In England-12/18/84 (ABC)
    -Ann-Margret guest. The original broadcast of this has an editing goof in which two sequences were aired out of order. It opens in London, but then in the next segment, Perry and A-M are riding the train to the English countryside and stopping there, but segment #3 is back in London! (Segment 4 is back in the country).

    Bob Hope Christmas Special-12/19/84 (NBC)
    -Guests, Shirley Jones, Brooke Shields, Joey Lawrence, Mary Lou Retton (1984 Olympic gold medalist). Bob is in good health but by this point Bob's specials were things you watched with respect for who he'd been.

    Christmas In Washington-12/19/84 (NBC)
    -My first exposure to this annual special and it became my favorite for the next decade. The Osmonds, Nell Carter, Hal Linden, Frederica Von Stade. (The latter two recreate the Bing Crosby-David Bowie duet of Little Drummer Boy-Peace On Earth). US Naval Academy Glee Club. Shiloh Gospel Choir. Closing speech by President Reagan.
     
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  10. Message #770 of 884 Dec 16, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2019
    Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Screenwriter

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    Poirot - 3.9 "The Theft of the Royal Ruby"
    This adaptation of the story "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" is a personal Christmas favorite. The Belgian master detective (David Suchet) just wants to enjoy the holiday alone in his comfortable modern apartment in London, with his books and hand-made chocolates, but is pressed by Her Majesty's government into spending a traditional Christmas at a country manor. His mission: to nab a couple of thieves who stole a royal ruby from a boorish Egyptian prince. Very fun, and much lighter in tone - and more Christmassy - than "Hercule Poirot's Christmas." Besides the enjoyable mystery plot, we get a big Christmas dinner, including Christmas pudding, plus tree decoration, charades, Christmas mass at the local church (complete with choir) and other seasonal elements - all served up with this series' customary sumptuous art direction, costuming, props and period 1930s detail. The only (minor) flaw is the utter absence of any snow in the exterior shots (it was a full-on white Christmas in the original story).

    The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
    1.12 "Boys' Christmas Money"
    David and Ricky want to get a job to earn some money to buy Christmas presents. Ozzie and Harriet aren't too sure about it at first, but admire their intentions and eventually give them the go-ahead. Ozzie tries to help by offering some extra money to the local grocer if the man throws some work the boys' way. Turns out, Harriet has a similar deal going with the baker. So when the boys get called in to work that afternoon, each parent assumes they know exactly where they're going...but do they?

    For such a gentle slice of life story about nice people having simple misunderstandings, there are a heck of a lot of laughs here. Everyone gets their fair share of funny lines, but once again the cream goes to Ozzie and little Ricky (who possesses terrific natural comic timing - his refrain of "Oh, I don't mess around, boy" cracked me up). And it's refreshing to see a sitcom where family members actually spend time not only talking, but listening to each other. When Ozzie tells his (embellished, as it turns out) story about his first work experience back when he was their age (walking through three miles of snow, etc.), I was waiting for the standard sitcom cliche eye rolls and sarcastic comments...but here, the boys listen patiently and ask their dad questions. The show is legitimately, and frequently, funny, but there's respect there, too, which is a treat to see. Will watch the follow-up S1 episode, "Late Christmas Gift" later this week.
     
  11. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    about to watch this for the first time ever!
     
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  12. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    Josh, that’s a fine Ozzie and Harriet episode in general. But it’s not what I’d call a fully Christmas – themed episode because it doesn’t take place at Christmas time. There are much better ones in the series. Just make sure you leave time to specifically watch “Busy Christmas”, “Late Christmas Gift” and “Christmas Tree Lot”. Those are three of the best ones.

    Gary “and please let us know how your viewing goes“ O.
     
  13. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Actually glad it worked out that way - I kinda like starting with stuff that’s more “Christmas time of year” and moving more specifically into “Christmas Day” stories as it gets closer.

    So I should have waited to watch the episode of “Windows on Main Street” that was on the Merry Sitcom disc, but I enjoyed it just the same. Might have extracted a tear from my eye.
     
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  14. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    Very melancholy episode, but a good one. I actually lobbied Shout to include that episode when they were preparing that release. My one claim to fame. :D

    Gary “good plan on how to watch these Christmas episodes” O.
     
  15. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    That Mill Creek you recommended just came today!
     
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  16. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    Specials recorded from 1985 (a couple recovered years later).

    A Charlie Brown Christmas-12/4/85 (CBS)
    -I was determined to record this my first Christmas with my own VCR (my friend who did the Como and other 1984 specials botched this in '84). I caught at the tail-end of the period when the familiar "CBS Special Presentation" animated open with the music culled from the original "Hawaii Five-O" soundtrack was still being used and when you had the old sponsor billboards and a staff announcer's voice reading the sponsor names. That was always part of the *experience* of watching these specials and that's why to this day I have never bought a DVD or Blu-Ray of this but keep watching this 1985 recording. As for the special itself, it's magic and timelessness (even for a time when the prevailing sentiments have turned against its message) remains.

    Twas' The Night Before Christmas-12/4/85 (CBS)
    -This 1973 Rankin-Bass animated special followed the Charlie Brown Christmas airing. The Rankin-Bass tags were always part of the soundtrack of Christmas for me in the late 70s but amazingly I don't really come back to them much (this one gets more play from me because it was the only vintage one I recorded back in the day). Some good songs and a vocal cast (Joel Grey, George Gobel and the underused Tammy Grimes) but I've always had a big problem with the story conceit it serves up (footnote-it was written by Jerome Coopersmith who did the best episodes of "Hawaii Five-O") because essentially it reveals Santa to be a thin-skinned jerk who can't handle one angry letter to the editor which is why the town must make this big clock in the hopes he'll notice and forgive them. I'm probably too much a cynic for thinking this in my old age now but I can't help but think it (it's only the beauty of when they finally get to the reading of the classic Moore poem that it makes up for that).

    Bob Hope Christmas Special-12/14/85 (NBC)
    -No matter how much you think Bob was past his prime by then, he was still drawing an audience as this special ranked #4 for the week it aired. Guests are Emmanuel Lewis, Brooke Shields and Barbara Eden. The All-American football team shows Brian Bosworth and Bo Jackson among others and we get a spot with another NFL player William Perry which shows the phenom he was in that 85 Bears Super Bowl season.

    Christmas In Washington-12/14/85 (NBC)
    -The fourth annual special. Tom Brokaw acts as host (but thankfully does not sing!). Music guests Pat Boone, Natalie Cole (who does the "Christmas Song" and ends it with a "Thanks, Dad."), and Amy Grant. The greatness of these specials is that they were just good music knowing how to structure the program properly with the "light" carols for the opening montage medley and the more sacred carols for the closing medley. The look at Christmas in the White House and the closing Presidential speech was now ingrained as part of the tradition.
     
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  17. Ron1973

    Ron1973 Beverly Hillbilles nut extraordinaire

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    I have the LP soundtrack of that. My grandmother bought it for me in the late 70's, probably '77. The cover is beat to pieces, and the LP doesn't look much better. I digitized it and used some simple noise reduction and it turned out fairly good. I might have to listen to it soon.
     
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  18. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    I insist on watching the first one on Christmas Eve proper, and my wife and daughters insist on watching the second one on Christmas Eve. So both of those have yet to be viewed this year, but we will undoubtedly make sure they have been watched before we go to sleep on Christmas Eve. And they are both very good. The first one is a true classic among classics. And the second is a solid Rankin-Bass production. I love their ending tag as well.

    Last night we watched the 4th season Christmas episode (this series actually had three Yuletide offerings) from Lois & Clark - "Twas the Night before Myxmas" which is a solid entry. Really captures the spirit of the season for this style of show. Certainly Recommended in my book.

    Watched two 'Ranger years' Lassie episodes, "The Greatest Gift" which tells a very nice story involving the choosing of the White House Christmas tree and a little boy. Also watched "Little Christmas Tree" which was from the first season of the 'Ranger years' (when the show was still b/w). Both of these are Recommended. But the best of the bunch come from the Timmy years, which we will watch this weekend or on Monday.

    Gary "have to pick up the pace for sure" O.
     
  19. Message #779 of 884 Dec 17, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2019
    Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    Fantastic, Josh! There is a lesser known, earlier in December Christmas episode on that set entitled "Girl at the Emporium" you might want to check out soon. Then you can use that set, or the Shout O&H Christmas set to watch "Christmas Tree Lot", which is a lot of fun. The only episode you'll have to hunt down on Youtube or somewhere online (unless you spring for one of the small company DVD versions that have been released over the years) is "Busy Christmas". This one is the best of them all and is really required viewing at our house.

    Here's an Alpha release that has almost all the Christmas episodes on it, if you are up to one more purchase. I have it myself.

    Gary "you should be able to find that last episode I mentioned online fairly easily if the Alpha dvd isn't an option - it's very popular" O.
     
  20. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    The Andy Griffith Show - “Christmas Story”. This one is a classic and needs no description. I did view it for the first time on Blu, which was nice. Obviously this one is Highly Recommended.
     

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